from the longer-than-81-blunt-papers dept.
It's that time of the year again. Time to talk about drugs and the war on them because some stoners declared a holiday or something.
At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. "You want to know what this was really all about?" he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. "The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."
[Oh yes, it continues...]
The War on Drugs has persisted nearly unabated for decades, but signs of change can be seen. The UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the "World Drug Problem", called by Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala, began yesterday and ends tomorrow. On the agenda this time around? The legalization of drugs, 18 years after a previous summit declared its goal of ridding the world of illicit drugs. The special session's April 19th start date coincides with "Bicycle Day", the anniversary of Albert Hoffman's first LSD trip. One group, the Psychedelic Society of Brooklyn, will be leading a bike ride ending at the United Nations building in New York to promote the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics and demonstrate that drug legalization isn't just about majority-approved cannabis.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called for a global overhaul of drug policies, including a ban on the death penalty for drug offenses and focus on rehabilitation rather than imprisonment. Santos proposes that nations should be more free to reform their drug laws, rather than being beholden to international conventions (such as the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971). He has also announced that following nearly four years of peace negotiations, his government will collaborate with Farc rebels to eradicate coca production within Colombia. President Santos will speak at the UN General Assembly Special Session today regarding his proposals.
Other Latin American leaders such as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto are pushing for decriminalization and legalization. President Nieto says that Mexico will soon increase the amount of cannabis citizens are allowed to possess, and legalize medical cannabis. Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales says he wants nations to focus on demand reduction and not just supply reduction. A commission set up by the Lancet medical journal and Johns Hopkins University published a report (DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)00619-X) that found that decriminalization in Portugal and the Czech Republic has led to significant financial savings, health benefits, less incarceration, and has not significantly increased drug use. On the other hand, nations such as Indonesia and China are against eliminating the death penalty as well as any legalization of narcotics. An outcome document adopted by member states on Tuesday included no specific criticism of the death penalty. Also, UN security guards have reportedly been ordered to confiscate copies of an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon supporting drug reforms signed by over a dozen former heads of state, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, former UN officials, celebrities, business leaders, etc.
Throughout the past year, we have seen extensive reporting of a "heroin epidemic" in the northeastern United States. Deaths due to heroin overdose are today being blamed for a 0.1 year decline in life expectancy among white Americans in 2014. The overdose (of any drug) rate among white adults aged 25-34 is five times the 1999 rate, and the same rate among white adults aged 35-44 tripled since 1999. Advocacy by groups and individuals, particularly the parents of overdose victims, has helped move public sentiment towards supporting drug treatment rather than incarceration. There is greater bipartisan support for allowing the wide distribution of the anti-overdose drug naloxone, and for introducing previously unthinkable public safety measures such as government-run needle exchanges to reduce the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.
One measure of success in "post-war" Afghanistan has been the fate of the opium poppy crop, used to produce heroin. In 2014, the poppy plant was Afghanistan's biggest export, valued at $2.8 billion, 13% of the country's GDP. The Taliban have since surged into Afghanistan's southern provinces in order to take control of the growth and export of poppies. 3,000 government soldiers and policemen have died in the past 11 months in Helmand province alone, which accounts for over 60% of the world's heroin supply.
The estimated purity of illicit heroin has crept up in recent years as the price has fallen. However, while heroin might be cheap and plentiful, the heroin epidemic has been spurned on by the over-prescription of opioid painkillers. Opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999, and last month the Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines that recommend reducing the use of opioid painkillers. Effective bribes in the form of "speaking fees" given to doctors have exacerbated the problem. Additionally, drug companies have been fined over misleading claims made about their opioid products, such as downplaying of addiction potential.
In the United States, the Drug Enforcement Agency is once again considering whether to reschedule cannabis (a decision will be made by July). Petitions to reschedule the drug have been denied over the years, but the supposed Schedule I criteria, such as "The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," look increasingly strained now that nearly half the nation has legalized medical or recreational cannabis. In an all-too-common example of uncritical irony, an LA Times editorial on the subject notes that Schedule I "[lumps] cannabis in with heroin and LSD," as if LSD wasn't one of the safest recreational drugs and has no medical uses.
Investigating potential medical uses is needlessly difficult and expensive when a drug is listed as a controlled substance. This remains true even for the increasingly accepted drug cannabis, which has led 27 U.S. senators and congressmen to sign a letter to President Obama this week recommending a "fair" review of the Schedule I status of cannabis, as well as the end of the DEA/NIDA monopoly on cannabis supplied for medical research. Research into other controlled substances is slowly being conducted after decades of neglect. A new study (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1518377113) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows the effects of LSD as recorded in the brain scans of 20 human subjects. One of the study's authors, the neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, was dismissed from the UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) for his analysis (NCBI) showing that alcohol is far more dangerous in terms of both physical and social harms than cannabis, LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, or ecstacy. The ACMD is under the purview of the Home Office, led by the tyrannical Theresa May.
Other groups are also pushing the research boundaries. For example, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies is sponsoring research into the use of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The EmmaSofia organization in Norway successfully crowdfunded nearly $40,000 to promote and manufacture MDMA and psilocybin. The couple behind EmmaSofia, Pal-Orjan Johansen and Teri Krebs, have published studies showing no link between common psychedelics like LSD and an increase in psychosis or suicide (DOI: 10.1177/0269881114568039), as well as investigating the use of LSD to treat alcoholism (DOI: 10.1177/0269881112439253) .
On the campaign trail, a few presidential candidates linger. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders appears to have the strongest pro-cannabis policy positions, supporting descheduling, decriminalization, legalization of medical cannabis, and not obstructing states from legalizing recreational cannabis. Hillary Clinton holds similar positions, but has appeared more cautious about both medical and recreational legalization. Republican candidate Donald Trump has supported medical cannabis, but criticized "trouble" in Colorado which legalized recreational cannabis. Ted Cruz's position on cannabis has evolved from criticizing Obama for allowing Colorado and Washington to legalize it, to supporting states as "laboratories of democracy" while opposing legalization personally. John Kasich appears to broadly oppose legalization, but is also nowhere near to winning the nomination unless his party's establishment chooses to anoint him after Trump fails on the first convention ballot.
Oregon's 25% sales tax on cannabis purchases has resulted in $3.48 million in revenue for the month of January, outpacing the revenue projected for the entire year. However, Oregon's Department of Revenue spent around that amount to refurbish a building and hire employees and security to collect revenue from recreational cannabis businesses, much of it in the form of paper money. The uncertainty involved with banking anywhere in the nation means that cannabis dealers often pay their taxes with large bags of cash. This also means that unless these businesses lie about the nature of their revenue or find a bank willing to risk a federal crackdown, the cannabis businesses are prime targets for thieves.
Colorado's recreational cannabis law has remained intact, despite efforts by Nebraska and Oklahoma to have a case against Colorado heard by the Supreme Court. Colorado's Department of Public Safety has measured an increase in emergency room visits "possibly" related to cannabis from 739 to 956 per 100,000. The authors of the mandated report say that a decrease in stigma may lead to better reporting of cannabis-related ER visits.
Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical cannabis on Sunday. On the state ballot initiative front, the only cannabis-related measure confirmed to be on a November 8th ballot is the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would legalize and tax recreational cannabis and allocate the revenue to education. The Massachusetts Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Initiative may require additional signatures if the legislature does not approve the initiative by May 3rd. Florida will see the re-introduction of a medical ballot initiative, which failed in 2014 with 57% support. Other ballot initiatives in states like California and Arkansas may still have months to submit the signatures required to appear on the ballot this year. In a small reversal, Washington state voters may get to decide whether to restrict production and sales of cannabis in certain residential neighborhoods. Last year, Ohio voters rejected a legalization amendment that would have created a cultivation oligopoly.
Finally, I leave you with what's truly important: Loafy, chillin' after curing his munchies (image courtesy of Gravis).
🍄 🌵 Here's last year's article. 💉 💊
The Guardian reports:
Theresa May has reportedly moved to quash an attempt by her cabinet colleague Sajid Javid to improve mobile phone coverage by warning that the plans could aid terrorists, according a leaked letter.
[...] May argues in the leaked internal Whitehall letter that Javid’s plans to end “not-spots”, by allowing customers to roam between rival networks, could aid criminals and terrorists. The Times reported that May’s objections centre around concerns that roaming would make it more difficult for the agencies to track suspects.
In the letter, extracts of which have been published in the Times, May says that national roaming “could have a detrimental impact on law enforcement, security and intelligence agency access to communications data and lawful intercept”.
April 20th (420) is a celebration of stoner/cannabis culture. In recent years, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana has accelerated as public opinion has shifted, so there are more reasons to celebrate...
The White House announced a new Heroin Response Strategy on Monday to combat a "heroin/opioid epidemic" across 15 states in the northeast:
The Office of National Drug Control Policy said it would spend $2.5 million to hire public safety and public health coordinators in five areas in an attempt to focus on the treatment, rather than the punishment, of addicts. The funding — a sliver of the $25.1 billion that the government spends every year to combat drug use — will help create a new "heroin response strategy" aimed at confronting the increase in use of the drug. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin-related deaths had nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.
[...] Once thought of as a drug used only by hard-core addicts, heroin has infiltrated many communities, largely because of its easy availability and its low price, officials said. The problem has become especially severe in New England, where officials have called for a renewed effort to confront it. Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State Message in January to what he called "a full-blown heroin crisis" in his state. Like the new White House effort, the governor called for a new, treatment-based approach to the drug.
[More after the break...]
UK Home Secretary Theresa May was grilled on Wednesday during the last evidence session held by the Parliamentary committee scrutinizing fresh powers proposed for GCHQ.
Crucially, she was unable to explain to the panel exactly why Blighty's intelligence services need the ability to intercept and retain millions of innocent Britons' data in bulk, as well carry out bulk hacking operations, which would be strongly authorised if draft law – the Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) – is passed.
While the joint committee was pleased that GCHQ's bulk surveillance and hacking operations are being brought completely within parliamentary reign for the first time, having previously been effected through royal prerogative, the panel noted that the agency's sweeping powers have not yet been justified in operational terms.
-- submitted from IRC
Police and security services will be able to see names of sites visited in the past year without a warrant, under the draft Investigatory Powers Bill.
The science and technology Committee says its requirements are confusing, and firms fear a rise in hacking.
The Home Office said it would study the report's findings.
When she announced the draft bill last year, Theresa May stressed that the authorities would not be able to see individual web pages visited, just basic data, such as domain names like bbc.co.uk or facebook.com.
The information would, of course, only be used for 'official purposes'.
In order to help fight the heroin epidemic in the northeast United States, Kroger supermarkets and CVS pharmacies will carry the anti-overdose (opioid antagonist) drug naloxone (trade name: Narcan) over the counter:
Ohio-based grocery chain Kroger Co. said Friday it will make the overdose-reversal drug naloxone available without a prescription in its pharmacies across Ohio and northern Kentucky, a region hard-hit by deadly heroin. Kroger said more than 200 of its pharmacies will offer naloxone over the counter within days. "We want families dealing with addiction to know that they can count on having the drug available in the event that they need it," Jeff Talbot, Kroger vice president of merchandising, said in a statement.
Ohio fire crews and other first responders use naloxone thousands of times a year to revive opioid overdose victims. Ohio overdose deaths jumped 18 percent in 2014, one of the nation's sharpest increases. Those on the front lines of the battle against heroin's spread have increasingly supported allowing and educating families and friends of addicts to administer naloxone in emergencies.
State regulators in Ohio and Kentucky have allowed the drug to be sold over the counter. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Kroger officials at a Cincinnati grocery store for the retailer's announcement. Portman has been pushing a multi-pronged heroin bill in the Senate that includes expanded availability of naloxone. "This marks an important step in our fight to combat addiction and we all need to continue to work for a bottom-up, comprehensive approach to the heroin epidemic," Portman, from the Cincinnati area, said in a statement.
CVS said recently it will soon offer naloxone without a prescription at its Ohio pharmacies.
Naloxone became available over the counter in Australia on February 1.
In the U.S., there are currently a patchwork of state laws which govern access to Naloxone.
In the U.K. as of 1 October, 2015, "...[A]ny worker in a commissioned drug service can now distribute naloxone without prescription."
The Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to Colorado's recreational cannabis law from neighboring states:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lawsuit filed by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma against their neighbor Colorado over a law approved as a ballot initiative by Colorado voters in 2012 that allows the recreational use of marijuana. The court declined to hear the case filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, which said that marijuana is being smuggled across their borders and noted that federal law still prohibits the drug. Two conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said they would have heard the case.
Nebraska and Oklahoma contended that drugs such as marijuana threaten the health and safety of children and argued that Colorado had created "a dangerous gap" in the federal drug control system. Colorado stands by its law. It noted that the Obama administration has indicated the federal government lacks the resources and inclination to enforce fully the federal marijuana ban.
NPR is reporting on the latest drug scare, involving an over-the-counter antidiarrheal drug that is being used for its opioid-like effects by addicts:
Some people addicted to oxycodone and other opioids are now turning to widely available diarrhea medications to manage their withdrawal symptoms or get high. The results can be dangerous to the heart — and sometimes fatal — warn toxicologists in a study [open, DOI: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2016.03.047] recently published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
The researchers describe two case studies where people who were addicted to opioids tried to ease their withdrawal symptoms by taking many times the recommended dose of loperamide, a drug commonly used treat diarrhea. Both patients died.
"Because of its low cost, ease of accessibility and legal status, it's a drug that is very, very ripe for abuse," says lead author William Eggleston, a doctor of pharmacy and fellow in clinical toxicology at the Upstate New York Poison Center, which is affiliated with SUNY Upstate Medical University.
The Obama administration is loosening restrictions on buprenorphine/Suboxone prescriptions in order to fight the "heroin epidemic", while calling on Congress to act on a request for $1.1 billion in additional funding for opioid treatment programs across the U.S.:
The Obama administration is making it easier for people addicted to opioids to get treatment. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced new rules Wednesday to loosen restrictions on doctors who treat people addicted to heroin and opioid painkillers with the medication buprenorphine. Doctors who are licensed to prescribe the drug, which is sold mostly under the brand name Suboxone, will be allowed to treat as many as 275 patients a year. That's almost triple the current limit of 100, and HHS estimated that as many as 70,000 more people may have access to the drug as a result.
"There are a number of ways we are trying to increase access to medication-assisted treatment," said Michael Botticelli, the director of national drug control policy, on a conference call with reporters. "This rule itself expands access and gets more physicians to reach more patients."
Suboxone is itself an opioid. It eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but doesn't make people high. [...] Botticelli said an average 129 people a day die from opioid overdoses.
White House Announces Heroin Response Strategy for the US Northeast
Alarming Rise in Death Rates for Middle-Aged White Americans
Kroger Supermarkets to Carry Naloxone Without a Prescription
4/20: Half-Baked Headline
Since this time last year, Ohio, Florida, North Dakota, and Arkansas legalized medical cannabis, Illinois decriminalized it, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts legalized recreational cannabis. An attempt to legalize recreational cannabis in Arizona narrowly failed.
29 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, although restrictions vary widely from state to state.
Germany's medical cannabis law was approved in January and came into effect in March. Poland has also legalized medical cannabis, and Georgia's Supreme Court has ruled that imprisonment for possession of small amounts of cannabis is unconstitutional.
🍁 Cannada: Not So Fast 🍁
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled (archive) legislation (archive) that would make Canada the first major Western country to legalize recreational cannabis (the only country to legalize it to date is Uruguay, although implementation has taken years), dealing a serious blow to the crumbling United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. However, the Liberal Party of Canada intends to wait more than a year to act on its campaign promise, during which time Canadians can still face prosecution for possession of the drug:
True to form, this government has written down a series of talking points, in this case, trying to make it sound like it's cracking down on pot rather than legalizing it. And Justin Trudeau's ministers are sticking to the messaging from party central like a child reciting Dr. Seuss.
Not once in that As It Happens interview did [Justice Minister Jody] Wilson-Raybould explain why the government intends to keep on criminalizing Canadians so unfairly (see the Liberal party's website statement) for another year. Instead, literally every second time she opened her mouth, she re-spouted the line about "strictly regulating and restricting access." Off asked eight questions. Four times, Wilson-Raybould robotically reverted to the same phrase.
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, a parliamentary lifer who mastered the art of repetitive dronetalk sometime back in the last millennium, was out peddling more or less the same line, but with an added warning: Not only will the government continue to criminalize Canadians for what it considers a trifling offence, enforcement will be vigorous. "Existing laws prohibiting possession and use of cannabis remain in place, and they need to be respected," Goodale declared. "This must be an orderly transition. It is not a free-for-all." Why the government cannot simply decide to invoke prosecutorial and police discretion, and cease enforcing the cannabis laws it considers unjust, was not explained. Why that would necessarily be a "free for all" also went unexplained.
The Liberal Party of Canada has taken pains to remind everyone that the Conservative Party will "do everything they can to stop real change and protect a failed status quo". Unfortunately, they did not get the memo that "marijuana" is a term with racist origins.
Make like a tree and legalize it, Cannadia... Cannibinoidia.
President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Backtrack to April 20th, 2016. Bernie Sanders still seemingly had a shot at becoming the President of the United States. Sanders, as well as Hillary Clinton (though begrudgingly), supported decriminalization of cannabis, medical use, and the continuation of states making decisions about recreational use. The #2 Republican candidate Ted Cruz also had a "let the states sort it out" stance.
One contender stood out, and he went on to become the @POTUS to #MAGA. The widely predicted "third term" was prevented, and that outcome may greatly affect a burgeoning semi-legal cannabis industry. One recent casualty are Amsterdam-style "cannabis clubs" (think: brewpubs). Colorado's legislature has backed off on a bill that would have allowed on-site consumption of cannabis at dispensaries due to the uncertain future of federal enforcement of cannabis prohibition.
Trump's position on cannabis has been ill-defined, although he supports medical use and has indicated that states should handle the issue. But the same can't be said of his Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions. Here are some quotes about the drug from Mr. Sessions:
We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger.
I think one of [President Obama's] great failures, it's obvious to me, is his lax treatment in comments on marijuana... It reverses 20 years almost of hostility to drugs that began really when Nancy Reagan started 'Just Say No.
You can't have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink... It is different... It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.
Good people don't smoke marijuana.
Cannabis advocates are becoming increasingly paranoid about the federal government's stance towards the states (and a certain District) that have legalized cannabis. And this is following an Obama administration that was criticized for conducting raids in states with legalization. It is too early to tell how the Trump administration will choose to deal with cannabis, but there are signs that harsher policies and greater enforcement could be coming:
On Wednesday, [April 5th,] Jeff Sessions directed Justice Department lawyers to evaluate marijuana enforcement policy and send him recommendations. And some state officials are worried. This week the governors of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington wrote the attorney general. They asked Sessions and the new Treasury secretary to consult with them before making any changes to regulations or enforcement.
At the White House, press secretary Sean Spicer said recently that the president is sympathetic to people who use marijuana for medical reasons. He pointed out that Congress has acted to bar the Justice Department from using federal money to interfere in state medical cannabis programs. But Spicer took a harsh view of recreational marijuana. "When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we need to be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by," Spicer said.
Really, Spicer? Recreational cannabis use shouldn't be encouraged during an opioid addiction crisis? Read on.
Politics nexus unavailable for comment.
The Opioid Crisis Drags On (it's relevant)
Heroin use has become more dangerous as dealers have increasingly added other substances that massively increase potency without affecting the size of a dose significantly. Carfentanil, which is used as an elephant tranquilizer, has led to hundreds of deaths over very short timespans. It is impossible for the average user to predict the potency and potential danger of street heroin. While there have been international responses to these compounds, new chemical analogues are being created all the time:
Chinese labs producing the synthetic opiates play hide-and-seek with authorities. On their websites, they list fake addresses in derelict shopping centers or shuttered factories, and use third-party sales agents to conduct transactions that are hard to trace. The drugs themselves are easy to find with a Google search and to buy with a few mouse clicks. A recent check found more than a dozen Chinese sites advertising fentanyl, carfentanil, and other derivatives, often labeled as "research chemicals," for sale through direct mail shipments to the United States. On one website, carfentanil goes for $361 for 50 grams: tens of thousands of lethal doses.
The cat-and-mouse game extends to chemistry, as the makers tinker with fentanyl itself. Minor modifications like adding an oxygen atom or shifting a methyl group can be enough to create whole new entities that are no longer on the list of sanctioned compounds. Carfentanil itself was, until recently, unregulated in China.
2016 saw the addition of kratom to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. Advocates for the tree leaf drug, which was formerly classified as a supplement, believe that its painkiller effects and low risk factors make it a useful replacement for the oft-deadly opioids that millions of Americans are addicted to. Kratom users have treated their pain and opioid withdrawal symptoms using the formerly "legal high". The DEA has refused to acknowledge this application and points out the "skyrocketing" number of calls to the Poison Control Center regarding kratom in recent years. One skeptic of kratom, Dr. Josh Bloom of the American Council on Science and Health, has looked at the same evidence and concluded that the trail of bodies left by substances like fentanyl and the scarce number of deaths (perhaps wrongly) attributed to kratom make it clear that the substance is the better "poison". He also notes that:
The number of calls to poison control centers is not reliable for determining how many poisonings actually occurred. It is a crude approximation at best.
Much like kratom, medical cannabis has been touted as a solution to the opioid crisis. States with legalized medical cannabis have seen a reduction in reported instances of opioid dependence [DOI: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.01.006] [DX] So it is puzzling that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would use opioids as a bludgeon against cannabis legalization while AG Sessions expresses astonishment over the suggestion of using cannabis as a "cure" for the opioid crisis.
Bonus: Here's a video (2m14s) of a woman getting administered Narcan/naloxone. Here's an alternate video (2m39s) in which a man who overdosed on heroin is able to sit up in about a minute after being administered naloxone.
⚚ The Slow March for Science ⚕
While the Drug Enforcement Agency has refused to reclassify cannabis from its current Schedule I status, citing the supposedly rigorous conclusions reached by the Food and Drug Administration, it will allow more than one institution to grow cannabis for research purposes, ending the monopoly held by the University of Mississippi. However, the Schedule I status of cannabis remains an impediment to further research:
[...] DEA's decision not to reschedule marijuana presents a Catch-22. By ruling that there is not enough evidence of "currently accepted medical use"—a key distinction between the highly restrictive Schedule I classification and the less restrictive Schedule II—the administration essentially makes it harder to gather such evidence.
"They're setting a standard that can't be met," says David Bradford, a health economist at the University of Georgia, Athens. "That level of proof is never going to be forthcoming in the current environment because it requires doing a really extensive clinical trial series, and given that a pharmaceutical company can't patent whole plant marijuana, it's in no company's interest to do that."
Schedule I status presents obstacles for clinical researchers because of restrictions on how the drugs must be stored and handled, Bradford says. Perhaps more significant, that listing may evoke skittishness at funding agencies and on the institutional review boards that must sign off on research involving human subjects.
"It doesn't resemble cannabis. It doesn't smell like cannabis," Sisley told PBS NewsHour last week.
Jake Browne, a cannabis critic for the Denver Post's Cannabist marijuana news site, agrees. "That is, flat out, not a usable form of cannabis," he said. Browne should know: He's reviewed dozens of strains professionally and is running a sophisticated marijuana growing competition called the Grow-Off.
"In two decades of smoking weed, I've never seen anything that looks like that," Browne said. "People typically smoke the flower of the plant, but here you can clearly see stems and leaves in there as well, parts that should be discarded. Inhaling that would be like eating an apple, including the seeds inside it and the branch it grew on."
Research on cannabinoids and psychedelics is proceeding, slowly. One study published yesterday (74 years after the first LSD trip) came to an astounding conclusion: Psychedelics can induce a "heightened state of consciousness":
Healthy volunteers who received LSD, ketamine or psilocybin, a compound found in magic mushrooms, were found to have more random brain activity than normal while under the influence, according to a study into the effects of the drugs. The shift in brain activity accompanied a host of peculiar sensations that the participants said ranged from floating and finding inner peace, to distortions in time and a conviction that the self was disintegrating.
[...] What we find is that under each of these psychedelic compounds, this specific measure of global conscious level goes up, so it moves in the other direction. The neural activity becomes more unpredictable," said Anil Seth, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Sussex. "Until now, we've only ever seen decreases compared to the baseline of the normal waking state."
Increased spontaneous MEG signal diversity for psychoactive doses of ketamine, LSD and psilocybin (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep46421) (DX)
♯ Ending on High Notes ♯
And now to scrape the bottom of the barrel:
- Americans Don't Care If Their Parents Know They Smoke Weed, Survey Says
- California Today: At Newspapers, Covering Pot Like Wine (archive)
- Nation's first public needle vending machine for drug users debuts in Las Vegas
- GRiZ Won the Celebrity Weed Game Without Selling Out
- Secret A.T.F. Account Paid for $21,000 Nascar Suite and Las Vegas Trip (archive)
- Legal Marijuana Ends at Airport Security, Even if It's Rarely Stopped (archive)
- Anti-Heroin Video From a Florida Sheriff Appalls Critics but Impresses Constituents (archive)
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has come out in support of federal cannabis decriminalization, just in time for 4/20:
The Minority Leader of the Senate is making it official the day before 4/20: He's down with legal weed. In an exclusive interview with VICE News, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed he is putting his name on legislation that he said is aimed at "decriminalizing" marijuana at the federal level. For Schumer, this is a shift. While he has backed medical marijuana and the rights of states to experiment with legal sales of pot, what he is proposing is a seismic shift in federal drug policy.
"Ultimately, it's the right thing to do. Freedom. If smoking marijuana doesn't hurt anybody else, why shouldn't we allow people to do it and not make it criminal?" Schumer said.
The legislation should be available within a week or so, and would remove cannabis (still listed as "Marihuana") from the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of Schedule I substances. States would then be free to regulate or continue to prohibit the plant. Cannabis advertising would be regulated as are alcohol and tobacco advertising. (Also at NPR, CNN, The Washington Post, and CNBC, as well as Reason taking a shot at Schumer for not doing it sooner.)
A majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, including, for the first time, a majority (51%) of Republicans, according to Gallup. Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for recreational use. 29 states, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico have legalized medical use of cannabis, and another 17 states have legalized the use of cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis became available for recreational purposes in California on January 1.